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Giants GM Joe Schoen has attended college games featuring top QBs this fall

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The New York Giants are at a fork in the road.

They enter Sunday at 2-7 prepared to start undrafted rookie quarterback Tommy DeVito, who began the season as a third-stringer, against the Dallas Cowboys due to multiple injuries and face the prospect of a long final eight games of the season.

What awaits them if the struggles continue is a high draft pick (they entered Week 10 with the No. 4 overall selection). What they do with that pick will have long-term ramifications.

If the season plays out as it has up to this point, these appear to be their options: Use a high pick to potentially select one of the draft's top QBs or use a high pick to support current franchise quarterback Daniel Jones, who will miss the remainder of the season after tearing his ACL on Nov. 5.

We won't know which direction they'll choose until after the season.

If the Giants decide to select a QB next spring, they could be well-situated to do so -- thanks in part to the homework and due diligence they've been doing this fall.

Giants general manager Joe Schoen spent Saturday at a game between Alabama and Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky, a quick stopover to scout some of the top talent in college football before traveling to Texas for New York's game against Dallas.

Schoen has scouted some of college football's top passers in recent weeks due in part to the proximity the college contests have been to where the Giants have played that weekend. Schoen's scouting path is based on reports from beat writers who cover college football, cross-checked with various sports information directors around the country.

Schoen was in-person for North Carolina's game on Sep. 2 against South Carolina in Charlotte. That game featured UNC's quarterback Drake Maye, an underclassman who will have until Jan. 15, 2024 to petition the league for draft eligibility. That game took place before Jones played a down on his four-year, $160 million contract he signed this offseason -- a deal that will pay him $46 million this season.

Schoen was not on the QB trail at that time -- it was just part of his Labor Day travel plans -- but his attendance afforded him the opportunity to watch Maye live.

In September, Schoen also attended Clemson-Duke in Durham, N.C., and Florida St.-LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Those two games featured plenty of talented players, including Duke QB Riley Leonard and LSU's Jayden Daniels. Daniels is a senior, while Leonard is an underclassmen.

Most notably, Schoen attended USC's game against Washington on Nov. 4 -- a game that featured USC quarterback Caleb Williams, who won the 2022 Heisman Trophy, and Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr.

That game marked the second time this fall that Schoen attended a USC game, as he also was in attendance for USC-Notre Dame on Oct. 14.

Williams is an underclassman and faces the same draft-decision deadline as Maye and Leonard. Penix is a senior.

It should be noted that NFL general managers routinely schedule weekend college trips to coincide with where their teams play that Sunday, and there were a number of highly regarded prospects at each game. For example, the Giants played at the Las Vegas Raiders the weekend of the Washington-USC game in Los Angeles.

The Giants could also not end up drafting near the top of the first round. Backup QB Tyrod Taylor (injured reserve; ribs) could return as soon as Week 14, as could tight end Darren Waller (injured reserve; hamstring). Getting those two players back in the lineup could generate a few more wins.

Jones is slated to have knee surgery in the coming weeks and should be able to participate in Week 1 of the 2024 season, sources say. He's due $35.5 million fully guaranteed on his base salary next year, an indication he's likely to be on the team.

Jones' injury history -- he also missed games in 2021 and 2023 due to neck injuries -- is indication the team could at least consider its options at the position.

The Giants currently have 16 players on their 53-man roster and reserve lists from the drafts that preceded the hiring of Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll in 2022. Just a handful (Jones, running back Saquon Barkley, offensive tackle Andrew Thomas and defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, for example) are starters; evidence they could go in multiple directions in the first round of the 2024 draft.

Could they opt to add a top-rated wide receiver to a skill group that includes tight end Darren Waller, rookie Jalin Hyatt and others for Jones? Or would they be in the market for a quarterback.

When Schoen was in Buffalo with Daboll as assistant general manager to Brandon Beane, the Bills used the 2018 season to reset a bit and prepare then-rookie Josh Allen to be their franchise QB. After overachieving the previous year with a surprise playoff berth, they utilized the 2018 season to set up their rise to prominence in the AFC. The hope for the Giants is a 2023 season that has been such a struggle with endless injuries to all of their key positions is used in a similar way.

Nothing will be more important than how they use that first-round pick.

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